Claims for Pressure Sores
What are pressure sores?
Pressure sores are also sometimes referred to as ‘bed sores’. They can occur during a long stay in hospital, particularly if the patient is elderly, frail or otherwise unable to regularly shift their own position in bed. Someone who is fit and healthy will automatically move on a regular basis, but when age or illnesses have taken their toll, this movement is something which has to be done by medical staff.
In the correct circumstances, nursing staff should shift patients regularly in order to ensure that sores do not develop. The sores in question take the form of discolouration or blisters in spots such as the heels and, if left untreated, they can become highly painful, with the tissue beneath the skin becoming exposed. Two out of three cases of pressure sores are found in people over the age of seventy, since they are more likely to have ageing, delicate skin, mobility issues and a reduced blood supply.
As stated previously, sores of this kind can be prevented via regular movement and by the application of treatments such as specially designed mattresses and cushions.
If hospital treatment takes the correct form then pressure sores will be prevented by the regular manual shifting of a patient’s position. If you or perhaps an elderly relative goes on to develop these sores, however, then it means, by definition, that some form of neglect has taken place. In busy and understaffed hospital wards, basic nursing techniques such as this can fall by the wayside, particularly if the patients are too ill or self-effacing to make a complaint. Pressure sores are not only painful and distressing, but they can also become infected, leading on to more serious conditions such as gangrene or blood poisoning. The fact that they can easily be prevented means that allowing them to happen is something for which a vulnerable patient has every right to be compensated.
The scale of the problem
Statistics gathered by the NHS serve to underline the scale of the problem of pressure sores. According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre there are approximately 180,000 pressure sores developed within the NHS every year, leading to the problem being described as ‘one of the biggest patient safety challenges facing the NHS’.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has acknowledged the scale of the problem by issuing guidelines, first published in April 2014, detailing the kind of steps which medical practitioners should take in order to assess which patients are at risk from developing pressure sores and the measures which should be taken in order to prevent this unfortunate turn of events.
Amongst the advice preventative recommendations set out by NICE are…
1) Provide information to people identified as being at risk of pressure sores and their family and carers, including:
- The causes.
- The early signs.
- Preventative measures and techniques.
- The wider health implications.
2) Provide training to the relevant healthcare professionals including:
- Carrying out risk and skin assessment.
- Use of pressure redistribution devices.
Although NICE guidelines are not legally binding, they do help to create a benchmark for reasonable standards of care against which the treatment which you have received can be measured and, if applicable, found to have been negligent.
Pressure sore claim timeline
If you’ve developed preventable pressure sores then you are entitled to launch a claim for compensation, whether you were treated within the NHS or by a private practice. A claim against the NHS will be dealt with by the NHS Litigation Authority, the organisation which defends claims against the service. Although only 2% of the cases handled by the NHSLA actually end up appearing before a court, the services of an experienced medical negligence lawyer will still be hugely advantageous when it comes to building the strongest possible case, and assessing the value of any settlement which is offered.
The NHS accepts the rights of patients to complain and, if need be, to receive compensation, within the wording of the NHS Constitution, whilst the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is also in place to deal with unresolved complaints.
If your pressure sores developed whilst you were being treated privately then the claim will be launched directly against the owners of the practice in question. In both cases, an independent medical examination will be carried out and this, alongside the records detailing the treatment you received, will be used to assess the situation, decide whether you have the strong basis for a no win no fee claim, and begin building you case.
The body against which you are making the claim will be informed that you intend to seek compensation via a ‘Letter of Claim’, after which they will have 4 months to reply with their own ‘Letter of Response’. This response will contain either a denial of negligence or an acceptance of blame, accompanied with an offer of compensation. This response, together with your lawyers’ judgement of whether the compensation offered is sufficient, will determine whether the claim is carried forward to a court appearance.
How long will your claim take?
If you feel that you yourself or a relative have been neglected in this manner, then the very first step to take is to pick up the phone and call us on 0800 234 6438. Our trained operatives will take down the details of your case and, free of charge, offer a quick and honest evaluation with no obligation attached. If we feel that you have a case to answer we’ll put you in touch with a specialised solicitor whose experience in the field of medical negligence claims will make them the ideal person to pursue compensation on your behalf. The more information you can bring to us, the better, with facts such as the date of entry to hospital, when the sores first appeared and how they were treated all having a strong bearing on the outcome. The length of time such a claim will take can vary, dependent upon whether the other party admits neglect or chooses to fight. Bearing this in mind, it could be settled quickly, out of court, or it could take as long as many months.
What will you receive?
The amount of compensation you will receive is something which can vary widely, as it is calculated on the basis of the severity of the pressure sores involved, the degree of neglect behind them and any on-going problems they bring about. Your solicitor will be able to give you an estimate when they have all the details of your case. What’s certain is that, as a no win no fee firm, you won’t need to take any financial risks to start your claim with us.